Are You a Good or Bad Role Model?

Your Employees Follow Your Lead Regardless of How You Act.

In my consulting business, I am always amazed at how much employees emulate the various things the boss does. I see it so often that I often am reminded of how our children emulate our behavior as parents.

As leaders, we are generally not the parents of our employees, but we are authority figures who have reached certain levels of success. New employees especially see that the boss must be doing something right, so they copy what they do and say.

A senior executive and I were chatting once about how many of the members of his team seem to be constantly tired, stressed and overworked. He said the staffing levels were fine, overtime is not really needed with current production levels, customers seemed happy and other metrics all seemed to be pretty good.

Medical claims were rising, which got his attention, along with the HR folks saying employees were complaining. I asked him about how many hours he puts in during a typical week. He said that he typically arrives at work at 5 a.m. and leaves around 8:30 p.m. As I interviewed members of his team, it became clear very quickly that the majority of them were working the same or longer hours as the boss.

The executive was single with no kids, and had a high capacity for work hours. Many of his employees were married with kids, and became non-productive after about 10 hours of work. He did not realize the impact his behavior was having on the health of his employees.

As a leader, being a role model is a key aspect of your role in the company. A few key areas for you to consider:

Work hours and 24/7 connections. I know a number of managers who believe that they should be the first into the office and the last to leave each day. If you try to do that, understand that your employees will try to match that behavior. For some people, it means that burnout is not far away.

The same holds true for texting and emailing late into the night. From a role model standpoint, try to keep your hours reasonable and limiting the amount of electronic communication you start, respond to, or allow between and among your employees.

Meetings. If you start meetings on time, have an agenda in advance, and your meetings run smoothly, the odds are the meetings your employees hold will go well also.

Get someone to be an objective observer in your meetings now and then. Ask them in advance to watch certain behaviors that you exhibit and give you some feedback. This will not only help you in your development, it will set a good model for your team.

Handling conflict. One of the toughest areas for managers in the workplace is handling conflict. Emotions are so quick to rise at times and our best training and intuition go out the window. Again, your employees are watching every move you make as a leader. If you let yourself get angry quickly, the odds are they will do the same to a degree. If you do not handle conflict between others professionally, you cannot expect others to do it either.

Work/life balance. It is important for the well being of your employees, and your organization, that everyone has a healthy balance between their work and personal lives. Each one is impacted by the other in a big way. Do a self-check. Are you healthy?

Do you have outside interests? Do you spend quality time with your family often? Do you continually develop your skills? Leaders signal very quickly what the expectation is around work/life balance. Make sure you sent positive signals.

Performance. In the final analysis, business is all about performance. You have a boss, just like your employees have you as a boss. Bosses, including you, expect good performance from their teams. You have performance indicators as a leader. If you hold your employees accountable for hitting their numbers, make sure you are hitting yours.

As a leader, you are on stage. Your employees probably know your behavior better than you do. That is just a fact. Try to get someone to give you some open, honest, objective feedback about your role modeling behavior. You, your team and the company will all benefit.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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